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"The execs at Ch. 11 may not realize that 2006 was the 45th anniversary of their running "March Of The Wooden Soliders" on Christmas Day.
"Yes, it first went on the air on Ch. 11 in November, 1961. Before that the film was seen on WOR TV Ch. 9 in December, 1959 and on WCBS TV Ch. 2's "Early Show". "Early Show" screened old movies in the afternoons from the 1950's to the 1960's.
- Kevin S. Butler
Well, it started like this.
People in the New York metropolitan area had a special treat on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. As special as the holidays are, there was a TV station in NY that truly made it even more special.
WPIX, Channel 11 in New York began this tradition back in 1966. Fred Thrower, the station's general manager at the time, had a real flair for Christmas. Fireplaces, a symbol of warmth and holiday cheer, are hard to come by in the city. Since NY was crowded with apartments, he thought about the many people who wouldn't be able to cherish the joyful experience that a Christmas fireplace brings.
With that in mind, he devised the idea of a televised fireplace - a Yule Log. This image would burn and be accompanied by beautiful Christmas carols. From 1966 to 1989 it was a tradition as closely linked to New York City as the tree at Rockefeller Center or Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
In 1989 the station decided to extinguish the log for good due to (what else?) financial reasons. This left many in the metropolitan area heartbroken. Every year people would look for the program to return, but it didn't.
Last year, right after Christmas, I'd had enough! It would have been next to impossible to create a paper petition to bring the program back, so since WPIX decided to change with the times, I decided to do the same thing - and created a web site. "Bring Back The Log" was created back in February of 2001, a way for me to find out exactly how many people were longing for this tradition to be returned.
Well, needless to say, the amount of hits I was getting was tremendous. I was getting letters from people all over the country saying they grew up with the Yule Log and badly wanted to see its return. I posted the history of the program along with an email address to send comments and warm memories to.
Along with that, I also had a link to WPIX's programming feedback link and urged people to send email to myself and directly to WPIX. Along the way, the site caught the attention of Tom Vinciguerra of the New York Times.
So, with the help of this web site, the thousands of people who emailed, my wonderful friend Billy at TVparty (whom, incidentally I ran this idea passed in its infancy and he said it was a great idea!) and the New York Times, WPIX decided it was a good time to reinstate the Yule Log on Christmas Morning, 2001 at 8:00 AM.
With events of September 11th on our heels, I think we can all agree - HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO EVERYONE and thank you for bringing back the Yule Log!
UPDATE: The Yule Log returned to WPIX from 2004-07 and went national on WTBS in '04. It was the highest rated program in NYC Christmas morning 2006 & 2007 and is sure to return in 2008 and beyond.
(Thanks to Justin Kaplovitz!)
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